Pakistani Official Fires 15 Christians Over Faith

A group of 15 Pakistani Christians were reportedly fired by a government official because of religious discrimination, a watchdog group claimed Monday.

Sajjad Bhutta, an administrator of the Solid Waste Management Department, reportedly accused the Christian employees of neglecting their duty in justifying their dismissal on May 12. But the workers told Washington-based International Christian Concern that they were fired because of their faith and not because they were doing a poor job. They noted that none of their Muslim colleagues were fired.

"This is yet another example of discrimination faced by Christian minorities in Pakistan," said Jonathan Racho, ICC's regional manager for South Asia, on Monday. "Pakistani Christians face violence from Muslim radicals and are discriminated against by Muslim officials. We urge Pakistani officials to reinstate the Christians to their post."

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The incident occurred just a week after Pakistani police illegally detained three Christians on false charges of alcohol possession.

According to the Christian men, their Muslim boss accused them of selling alcohol after they had refused to work on Sundays. Though their employer had neither filed a report nor registered a written complaint against them, the three Christians were arrested by a police officer on May 4, as it is illegal for anyone to sell alcohol without a permit in Pakistan.

One of the detained men said they were severely beaten in prison and pressured to admit they sold alcohol.

The men were released after local human rights groups came out to say they were illegally detained.

Just weeks earlier, on March 28, 47 Christians, including women and children, were falsely accused of alcohol possession by Pakistani police. The police reportedly threatened to charge the Christians with alcohol possession if they did not pay a bribe. When the believers refused, they were charged.

"No longer using just 'blasphemy' laws, police and fanatical Muslims have begun to use alcohol laws, Section 3/4 of the Pakistan Penal Code, to persecute the destitute Christians of Pakistan," said Albert Patras, head of the Society for Empowerment of the People, to persecution news agency Compass Direct. "Only Christians in Pakistan are allowed to keep and drink alcohol, so Pakistani police can apprehend any Christian and then level section 3/4 of PPC against him or her."

Presently, 95 percent of Pakistan's population is Muslim, while less than five percent is Christian.

The 15 Christians who were recently fired have appealed to federal minister for minorities affairs Shahbaz Bhatti to intervene on their behalf.

Human rights and persecution groups regularly report false allegations, discrimination, and abuse against Christians in Pakistan.

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